President Barack Obama and security officials defending the government’s secret spying programs are inching toward credibility. Sometimes, it comes in bizarre ways. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week filled in details that President Obama had left sketchy.
The administration, though, still needs to provide clear examples of the programs’ successes and prove that oversight is adequately protecting Americans’ civil liberties. Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, told Congress last Tuesday that sifting through phone records and Internet data had foiled 50 terrorist plots at home and abroad since Sept. 11, 2001. But he and other security officials provided scant details to show that the plots had a realistic chance of success or that data mining of phone records and Internet contacts were essential to uncovering the plots.
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